First hydro grow - questions/issues

Hi all,

I’ve grown in soil a few times but currently on my first hydro grow and having issues and questions. Hoping to get some guidance.

Jack Herrer autoflower
DWC hydro buckets
Currently about 9 weeks in.
Roots look good. I check the water daily and top off and adjust pH.
Using GH liquid micro, flora, bloom & recently been adding hydroguard


  1. When I follow the directions on the GH sheet I have which is attached, the amounts/gallon indicated push me WAY over the top of the recommended ppm range. For example, it says ppm range 1000-1200 but when I mix as directed I get like 2500 ppm. I’ve never watered with this, I ended up watering it down and bringing it to 1100.

  2. When I top off my water, do I use water with nutes, or plain pH balanced water?

  3. What is a good ppm to go with? In trying to fix pH instability I’ve brought ppm down to around 600 but the instability hasnt gone away.


A. Everything was pretty stable and going perfectly until early flowering and then the pH has been dropping drastically and it takes a lot of pH up to bring it up. The plants don’t seem to be suffering badly but the constant adjusting SUCKS.

I can balance the pH at 5.8 or 6 and then the next morning it’s often at like 4.2! The. I carefully rebalance the pH and add water but it’s so time consuming and feel like Im Doing something wrong.

I have began using hydroguard for the last 2 weeks and it’s a little better but still drops a lot every day.

I do mix the nutrients very well and give them a lot of time to mix before balancing and double check it before adding.

B. Soon the buds will be big and stems weaker on one plant. It’s going to be difficult to change the water. If I was using a net I couldn’t lift it. Any advice for this?

The roots look healthy and while dead roots come off, I do not have any smell or slime or overly brown-ness.

Thank you!!


@42 I understand what you are asking and saying…are these standalone buckets or is there an outside reservoir they both feed from?

Hi @Retiredoldguy thanks for the msg. They are standalone buckets - no reservoir. 1 bucket per plant. I change the water fully about once a week.

ok you are basically doing what I do…so what I have found is some plants will drive the PH towards 4.0 and even if you keep adding PH up they will drive it back down…some will do it but after adjustment they stay pretty stable but they can also all of sudden go to 7.0 . I ran an experiment with letting one go to 4 and adjusting her sister next to her back to 6ish range and the end result was very minimal between them…I do change the reservoir out every 7 days so the one plant never was at the 4.0 mark for more than a couple days before having either 0 nutrient distilled water added or a complete reservoir change out. So in my experience and grow setup this issue has not produced any major ill effects but I do my best to keep the ph right and that does involve adjusting as needed…

I have also wondered how a grower as yourself changes the reservoir in single vertical container as the plant gets larger… I grow a single plant in a 12 gallon tote with the plant at one end and an access point at the other end which makes it easy to add to or empty the tote reservoir.

I top off with just distilled water not nutes

Hydroguard is a must from beginning to end…Happy Roots…Happy Plant

I also use the GH line of products for some years now and this is my feed chart mixed in 4 gallon increments.
nutrient schedule



Thank you! That’s great to hear that I’m not alone and also that it hasn’t given you problems hitting pH 4. I also haven’t noticed problems.

Do you know the ppm you get with the nutrients chart you use? I’m curious where you like it.

Another question:

Is it bad to let the water go low? When you top off, how far from the net basket do you like to always keep the water? Should I strive to always keep it 1-2" from the basket?

A few times I’ve been busy and the plant has quickly drank the bucket down to about a gallon, with a lot of roots exposed. Is that bad or okay? It doesn’t seem to have caused me any issues.

One thing Im taking away from this experience is that I don’t think I’ll grow autoflowers hydroponically again. I just have so little control of the size of the plant that it’s a royal pain. At least if I was using photoperiod plants I could chop a big one down prior to triggering the flower.

I probably have more questions that I can’t think of right now! Lol.

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seedling around 200 and 300ppm
veg 500-650ppm
flower 800-20ppm

I like to let the reservoir go down until right before my air stones are exposed which is right around 2 inches or 2 gallons before adding just plain distilled water. I think this forces her to use what is left in the reservoir…kind of like making your child eat the vegetables on their plate after they ate all the good stuff…a crazy thought huh?

Many schools of thought on the distance from the net pot to the water surface and how important this is… I personally have decided you need at least 3-4 inches of air space minimal and no more than 6-7 inches of air space between the bottom of the net basket and your water/nutrient solution.

A good growing girl will drink a gallon or more a day easily in my setups.



Cool!! Thank you again!

It sounds like we are doing roughly the same things which makes me feel much more comfortable. I’ll probably try adjusting things your way and try the other nutrients in your chart. I feel like I’m on the right track and the buds are growing very nicely, I guess I just have to get used to the rhythm of things so it doesn’t feel tedious.

I’m curious, how do you go about mixing up so much nutrient to fill a 20 gallon container? I am in an apartment so I guess I would need five five gallon buckets just to do that. Or is there a trick? I do also use tap water but I throw in a separate pump and air stones in the tap water for a few hours or a day before I mix nutrients.

not 20 it is a 12 gallon tote that I only put 4 gallons in it at changeout…this gives me the air space and more importantly the root space needed…at the end of my grow I have a 2 inch thick layer at one end and at the other where my air stones are the roots encapsulate them.

This is a current experiment with auto seeds that hermied on me and I am growing those seeds to see what I get…this is one of them


ok I am confused

You need to be running the air stones continuous as a minimum…I like to have a circulation pump running all the time but others only circulate every so often during the day

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the only thing I don’t like about tap water is…with hydro I am trying to control every little thing that goes into my plant as best I can and if I use tap water there is a starting point of what is in it???My tap starts around 300ppm of only what the local water treatment plant knows. So I only use distilled or my current ZERO water filter.

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I run air continuously in the plant buckets, what I meant was that I have a separate air pump that I run stones in the tap water that I use for the weekly refills. I run the air stone in it for a while ahead of time to help evaporate the chlorine away.

My tap water is luckily only like 40ppm or something small.

What do you mean by circulation pump? Circulation pump = air pump?

So how do you empty the water from the tote when replacing? A siphon pump?

inside my 12 gallon tote is a submersible water pump to circulate for top water feed for my seedings and then later just to circulate…air bubbles in my opinion is not enough of a circulation agent and leads to heavy deposit areas in your container

I have a battery operated stick pump for aquariums that I use to pump in and out of the tote…

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Doesn’t look hermied to me but that hadn’t happened to me yet. Looks good! I like your technique of using the stone to pull down on whatever it’s pulling on. Do you generally find growing autoflower hydroponically to work well?

It looks like I should invest in a water circulation pump as well. I hadn’t been aware of that, thank you.

Your roots grow so different than mine. The way they’re long hanging down but thick, and then take up the entire bottom of the bin. Mine are like a huge puff beginning at the net.

I saw a bucket I really want but hesitant to spend the money at the moment. It’s called Hydrobucket. It’s basically a bucket just like mine but it has an area that extends out, with a flap lid that you can easily add water, read pH, siphon, etc. It would save me a lot of grief I guess but being cheap.

this plant is a seed from a hermied auto plant…it is about 3 weeks into flower

I only grew the 3 auto free seeds I got with my photo purchase…I do believe they can be easily stressed based on my minimal experience with them.

With the Hydrobucket I am still wondering how you get to the bottom, does this side piece somehow keep roots out of this area… In my tote the roots take up 2 inches and I have to make a little hole in them to get my pump to the bottom of the tote/reservoir. I can imagine the roots will form a thicker nest at the bottom in the bucket but I have no experience with it or have seen it in use with anyone I know of. Not saying this isn’t a good method I am just wondering how you get past this point.

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I’ve had some good luck with autos in soil. I guess we will both find out now how they do in hydro! I’ll be curious about your grow.

I guess with the hydrobucket, the roots generally don’t enter that area. I follow them on Instagram and did see one pic where the roots grew into that area but I assume I could generally push them away with my hand to get the siphon pump down to the bottom. Wish they sold them locally to test one out. Attached are some pics though that I screenshotted from their Instagram that shows the concept in action. Whatever it is, it’s easier than my current setup haha.


hey thanks for the feedback on the empty technique…good luck with your grow it is looking good


Hey @42 I’ve been following along and would like to add a thing or two here if you don’t mind.
@Retiredoldguy has definitely given you some good sound advice. I would like to address the issues that you stated above with pH dropping out.

Bucket hydro can be somewhat of a challenge for even the most experience growers. Then some find it easy to deal with the pH swings.

One of the reasons for pH swings are, there’s not enough water in your system to sustain everything that’s going on within your root zone. In hydro, more water means, the easier it is to keep you ppm’s and pH in check. If you ever want to get rid of pH swings, you will have to go to an rdwc system with a large enough volume of water.

In hydro, in a perfect system, the ppm’s and pH should remain the same as the water level drops because the plants are eating and drinking… and yes there is a deference between eating and drinking.

You need to know 3 things.
How much water are they drink?
How much nutes they are eating?
And, what is the pH doing over the course of that time?
You also have to take into account environmental conditions which will also play a part in how the plants uptake nutrients and water.

Provided your growing environmental conditions are in check during flower, if the ppm’s drop and the pH drops then she is telling you she is hungry.
If ppm’s go up, she is not eating for whatever reason. Later in flower, they will slow down eating so you’ll have to monitor and adjust.

Hydroguard and armor si are must haves for hydro. It’s good that you use it or at least some kind of root inoculant. Hydroguard does nothing to the ppm’s or the pH. It’s stickily for the roots.

Armor Si will help with strengthening your plants stem cells as well as help nutrient uptake.

When I was designing my system, I had to think about how I wanted to grow and all the different techniques involved while growing. I choose to go with totes and an rdwc system because it gave me more flexibility as to how I wanted to grow. I also have a chiller hooked up to my system. IMO, it’s almost a must have as well.

There are many ways to run dwc such as totes or even coolers and they would hold a lot more water plus keep the temps cooler. Totes gives you the ability to mount a scrog on top if you wanted, and still lift the lid.

Sorry if I’ve said something you already know. I can tag you in my grow journal if you’d like.

Good luck and keep’em Growin! :+1: :v: :sunglasses:


@HappyHydroGrower I’d love to see your grow journal, absolutely, and thank you for the advice.

The more water = more stability does make sense.

As far as ppms, I do measure them going in and measure them in the buckets over time as well. Sometimes they go down, but often they stay the same or even go up. But that could also be a product of me adding a lot of ph-up to adjust the oh right? I think the pH-up/down adds a lot of ppm? After @Retiredoldguy 's comment i re-checked the ppm of the tap water I use and I was wrong about it being low - it is 400ppm. But I can’t lug so much RO water up to my apt constantly and don’t want to spend the money on a RO system :confused:

The ppm in the buckets has confused me because even if the ppms don’t go down, my plants are obviously growing and fruiting and growth has been rapid and aggressive. So they MUST be eating and drinking unless I’m missing something.

RDWC: To me the downside would be that it may be harder for me to work on the plants and then substantially more mixing to create the nutrients. This being my first hydroponic attempt, the straight dwc in a bucket looked so easy, and frankly it was until flowering began. It is luckily also getting easier as I am developing habits and systems to make the work easier/faster.

I’m curious about recirculating systems. You created yours? I’d like to learn about the pumps and reservoirs and what it looks like. Have any advice on a good system you like that I can Google and research?

Thanks for the note on the armor SI! I wasn’t aware of what it does. I’ll definitely pick some up and at least begin to use it on my next grow. And maybe some research on the bloom additive.

Definitely appreciate you watching along and your comments and assistance. Google is great but it can be information overload and often skips small details - like me not being able to have found out whether to top off with nutes or plain water.

Thanks! -42-

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you are correct…in your setup because you let the nutrient level go down you have less volume of water to nutrient…if you were to add pure distilled water to bring your level back up to starting point you would see the actual amount the plant took in…


What is actually going on IMO is you are keeping an acceptable level of nutes and pH. But like you said, it can be a pia.

Your ppm’s or pH would have to be out of wack for at least 2-3 days before you would notice a degrade in your plant. Then it would be minimal unless left unchecked.

I can show you using a simple formula on how to mix nutes to get to your target value if they are reading low. If your plant is looking good now, how much better can it possibly get keeping the nutes even closer and the pH more consistent.

Not trying to get you to change anything, just letting you know of ways to get where you want to be with your nutes.

Bucket grows goes through nutes so much, by the time you add water twice to the bucket, you’ve basically done a complete water change.

It doesn’t hurt to add the right amount of nutes to get to your target ppm’s every time you water.

There are some here that never do a complete water change for that very reason.

If you are using GH products there is a formula called Lucas formula which was created for GH products in hydro.
It may take a lot of guess work out of trying to figure things out. :v::sunglasses: